Monday, July 16, 2012

This blog is coming to an end...

Yes, seeing that we are no longer the owners of Wave Dancer, this blog is no longer fitting.

Dave has convinced me to switch to WordPress. I'm not quite sure what the hell I'm doing on said site, the blog is hideous right now, but hopefully it will be a work in progress.

We'll no longer be adding to this blog. But the new one should have some really incredible journal entries on it, if things pan out for us like we're hoping.

Here's the link to our new blog:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Killing time

We finished cleaning up the boat a week ago, and emptying her our of all of our possessions (what little we have left these days). We have a lot of interest in her, until Debby came strolling our way. Needless to say, that put a little damper on things. Now that the weather has cleared up (beautifully too, I might add) we're hoping that the ball will start rolling again.

In the meantime, we've been spending most of our time at Max and Jaime's place up in Davenport, just outside of Orlando. We've been practicing the fine art of 1950's tiki cocktails (like the original Mai Tai, Singapore Sling, and the Hurricane). I have to say, I'm not ever going to be able to have a cocktail in a bar ever again. No comparison. Fresh ingredients, top shelf liquor, and meticulous measurements really go a long way in the taste of a drink! We've also been lounging poolside quite a bit. We figure this is our vacation from our Bahamas vacation...sadly.

Dave and I figured we'd do something fun, so we signed up for indoor skydiving. So the four of us spent our Saturday in near weightlessness. Here are the links for photos and a quick video!

Dave's iFly experience

Janae's iFly experience

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

'Merca. Home of the... crew of Wave Dancer

We made it back to the states, no problems. (Phew)

We were pushing our way up the coast of Florida, making our way to St. Augustine in hopes to sell the boat there. We made it as far as Stuart and decided, 'To hell with this', and decided to just stay. We've been moving the boat a lot lately, and we're tired. Stuart is a nice place, and we were there. Sounds perfect.

Our goal is to sell the boat. We have a lot of people emailing/calling us about it. We're hoping we'll be able to part with it quickly and easily.

What's next: who knows. We have some potential jobs lined up, maybe some more travel, maybe settle down for a bit. We don't know, we're waiting for the Great Magnet to make that decision for us.

What we will be doing, is driving across country (after the boat sells) to visit family and friends. Can't. Wait.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Northwest Passage to Bimini

 Alright, this one might not be for the faint of hearts (the Moms). You ladies might be happier just knowing that we made it safely to Bimini.  You’ve been warned!

Our usual regime when we’re getting ready to move, is to listen to Chris Parker. We can usually (though often times not well enough) hear him through our SSB receiver (single sideband radio). He broadcasts meteorological reports for cruisers.  We woke up at the usual time, 6:30am, to listen in. Parker said it would be mild and clear, no real chance of storm activity. He even specified, “Anyone heading from the Berry’s to Bimini today would have a good crossing”.

When we’re able to get internet, we also check weather ourselves from multiple sources. We prefer,, and sometimes a miscellaneous fourth reference depending location and circumstance. All the sites we looked at said we were in for good conditions for several days. Great day to cross.

Our plan was to leave in midday, sail the long and barren bank for approx. 20 hours straight through the night and reach Bimini sometime in the morning when we could easily dock up.

So, we left the Berry’s at 11am. We saw our first big front dead ahead of where we were going just as we got into the shallow water of the Grand Bahama Bank. With baited breath, we watched it inch north, just out of our rhumbline (our direct path). Right as we passed it, I said, “God, that looks terrible, I’m so glad we didn’t get caught in that!” No more than a minute past, the sky right on top of us started to darken. Terribly. Then we saw the first signs of a front hitting us.

When you’re about to be smacked with a big storm, there are a few telltale signs that give you a couple minutes to prepare. Naturally, the clouds are the first. However, often times you can’t tell which direction the storm is moving. Is it headed toward you, away from you, with you? The most abrasive way to tell that it’s heading towards you is a sudden drop of all winds. The flags will stop flapping, and the winds will cease altogether. You’ll get maybe a few minutes of these conditions, then you’ll see the water around you start to ripple. After that, you have maybe a minute tops, until you’re blasted with wind. Sometimes, it’s not such a terrible gust. Other times, it heels your boat over enough for the lifelines to touch the water.

This particular front hit us with 30-35 knot winds, instantly. Poured on us. Our saving grace was that we had pushed through underneath most of it before the cell had completely collapsed on itself. We skirted out of it in 15 minutes, to watch the world disappear in the dark rain and clouds behind us.


We figured this would be an isolated event. Forecast called for good conditions. We pushed along carefree in the beautiful Bahamas sun, for a few hours. Just as it began to set, we saw our second front, once again dead ahead of us. We were at the stage of trying to figure out which direction it might be headed, when we heard the U.S. Coast Guard send out an alert over VHF warning of severe weather. We were far enough from Miami, where it’s broadcasted, that we couldn’t really get the whole message. We thought we heard it was pushing north, but we couldn’t make out much more.

We fretted for an hour over the darkness in front of us, hoping this wasn’t part of the severe weather warning, and if so, hoping it would push north soon.  This was about 8pm. We were sailing toward a front, maybe a severe one, and the sun was nearly down. We had no way of knowing which direction it was heading. It was almost like walking blind on a trail through a canyon.

Sailing at night is often more comfortable. There are fewer distractions. You just sail. Watch for lights, and follow the GPS. It takes a lot of the other ‘stressers’ out of day to day sailing. You’re still in the same conditions, but somehow, it feels more peaceful. Tonight, was not one of those nights.

To clarify, determining which direction these fronts move rarely means that we’ll be able to avoid it. Sailboats are slow, usually much slower than storms. If you’re lucky, you can skirt out of a storms’ way, if you’re in the right place with the right speed. Usually, it’s just a way of preparing for a fight.

We heard another Coast Guard hail on the VHF. We were able to hear more this time (which may have been a bad thing). Severe storm alert. Winds up to 60mph. Hail ¼” thick. Dangerous lightning. Seriously bad news for a 27’ boat.

Way off in the distance, probably Cuba, we began to make out some electrical activity. We’ve seen storms hunker over Cuba while we were in the Keys that have been scary strong. We watched this one, it must have stretched for miles, light up like a bomb. The entire cell was exploding with energy. Multiple ground strikes simultaneously, spider-webbed lighting, the thunderheads erupting with fractured light. I grew up in the desert southwest, where monsoons are a normal occasion. I’ve seen some really impressive ones, but I have never seen a storm like this in all my life. I didn’t’ know one cell could produce so much electricity. It was utterly humbling. I doubt many people have seen what we watched last night, if we hadn’t been sailing next to it in a small boat, it probably would have been the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. Instead, it was one of the most dreadfully awesome. It was still far enough in the distance that we weren’t overly worried, but we watched it with awe and woe. Dave would try counting ‘one-one thousand’ and he couldn’t do it without seeing multiple lighting strikes across the entire front.

A couple hours passed, and we were starting to feel confident that we weren’t going to get hit. I closed my eyes for half an hour, then it was Dave’s turn. While he lay sleeping, I noticed some lightning off our port side.  Close. Too close. And big. All I could think of was that damned weather warning. I sat there, watching it get closer. I felt my body begin to tremble with fear, with the anticipation of such a threat. It was probably the worse I’ve ever felt in my life.

Then Dave wakes up. He asks me how things are, and I point the storm out, and tell him it’s coming our way. We both instantly knew to prep for severe weather. Dave began to get the storm anchor ready and started to jot down our GPS location every 15 minutes in case we needed to hail for assistance. I began to get our ditch-kit set up incase of the worse, and hailed for a radio check to see if anyone was in distance, and disturbingly, heard nothing.

Most storms, you just ride them out. You get wet, you get scared, you get the hell beat out of you, but a boat can handle a lot. 60 mph winds, with large hail and endless lightning strikes means there is a good probability that you could loose all of your electronic devices due to a lightning strike on the mast. It will fry everything in the boat that is hardwired. We won’t have a GPS chart plotter, VHF radio, lights, nothing. The lightning also means that it’s not safe for us in the cockpit as there is too great of a risk of strike to the helmsman. So we’d have to throw the anchor and sit inside, hoping for the best. 60mph winds mean that we can’t overpower it.  It means high waves and chop.  It means we’ll probably be dragged on anchor, whatever direction the storm is moving, just hoping to doesn’t push you onto rocks. Shy of a hurricane, it’s truly the worst conditions you could ask for in such a small craft as ours.  Thankfully we were in a location where if we had to drop anchor, we could.


Prepping, I felt better. I felt more focused and in tune with my rational thoughts. The waiting, the anxiety of potential impending doom, was wreaking havoc on my nerves.  It felt like being shut into a small room, in utter darkness, waiting for a dangerous blow to your body. Not knowing where, or when, or how bad. I was holding on by a thread. Dave was doing a great job of calming me down as he has been in stressful situations (or ‘sporty’ as he likes to call them) before.

At this point, there was lighting to the south of us, behind us, in front of us. We were in a little pocket of calm weather with stars above us, moving along over a large body of water, in our little boat. Waiting for the blow while all hell was breaking loose around us.

This is an image from NOAA of part of the system we went through, as it crossed over Florida towards us. 

Nothing came.

It’s 2:30am, and we’re drained. The constant anxiety and alertness for 15 hours is catching up to us. We’re ready for it, if it hits us, but the endless ‘what if’ from any which direction was torture.

We were finally getting closer to land. We found an anchorage south of our original destination that was much closer. We watched the lightning in front of us build in strength, and seem to loom over us. We figured it was better to get some kind of block from the direction of wind, than drop anchor in the middle of an open bank. Granted, land can be your worst enemy in a storm, but it looked like the one most likely to hit us might be partially blocked from the shore. We wouldn’t, hopefully, be on the leeward shore (the side the wind is blowing into, pushing you to shore).

We slowly made our way closer in, waiting for any instant where the wind was going to pick up and we were going to lose the race.

Compliments of The U.S. National Weather Service.

Finally, at 4am we dropped anchor. Not a great place to anchor, but it offered some kind of reduction of wind and waves. Going straight into Bimini was too much of a risk, too many coral heads and breakers, and definitely too much time to expose our little boat to the havoc. We’d certainly wreck if a storm hit us there. All we could do was wait and hope. So we went to sleep watching the boat light up from the outside in, without any more worry, because there was nothing more we could do.

We woke up at 7am, unscathed. Strung out. Tired. Fried. We pulled up anchor to finish the few remaining hours to Bimini. Over the VHF, we heard the Coast Guard announce two sunken vessels in the channel that we had passed through the day before and alerted boaters to keep a sharp eye for anyone in distress.  I think we may have dodged a bullet.  I don’t even like to think that could have been us, if we hadn’t been so damned lucky.

NOAA radar image. The white areas are concentrations of moisture.

I’m not looking forward to our Gulf Stream crossing to say the least. We had the fortune of being in shallow water last night, which will prevent too much sea building up on you. The waves will max out in height, half the depth. So, us sailing in 20 feet of water meant waves no higher than 10 feet between peak and trough. Still, not a good size, but at least they’re not 40 feet or more. In the Gulf Stream, getting caught in something like that, would be nightmarish. We’ve had faith in our multiple weather forecasts, until now. Big crossings weren’t any issue, because we felt that if we left in the right conditions, it’d be a breeze. Last night wasn’t in any forecast, it seems to develop from nowhere. It’s weather. It’s unpredictable and it’s powerful. This has been an abrasive reminder of this fact. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Water Rescue!.....Sorta

Dave and I had been hoping to leave on the 7th and we woke up that morning with the intention of doing so. However, upon waking, we saw that the winds had picked up and we wouldn’t be going anywhere, once again.

We were wasting time, hanging around the air-conditioned marina, when we heard a call for help to the Berry Island’s Club. As usual, the caretaker, Howard was nowhere to be found on the premises. Dave decided to respond for the marina, and found out it was Frank and Recey, a couple staying on a mooring ball in the harbor, who we had met the night before.

We could barely make out their call. They had taken their dinghy (which, is a 22 foot powerboat) out fishing and the engine had died on them. They wanted Howard to come and tow them in. We had to inform them that Howard wasn’t around, we had no way of contacting him, and that we didn’t have access to the marina boat. Dave told him to drop anchor, and ride it out until Howard shows up (which very well could have been hours).

A couple of other boats in the harbor heard the distress call and decided to offer help. Ted and Sarah, a retired couple in a huge tug-looking powerboat cruiser named ‘Manatee’ headed the rescue. They were cruising with friends in a similar boat, Joe and Connie. Ted, as we came to learn, is the kind of man who just likes to live on the edge in a completely utilitarian way.  When he heard calls for help, he figured he had nothing better to do. Both Joe and Ted are in their early seventies and they are still boys at heart, tearing life up. They were too funny to be around – running circles around us.

When he told us that he’d lend a hand, we hailed Frank and Recey back to let them know help was coming. We asked for their coordinates, and set off on ‘Manatee’, Ted and Sarah’s beastly boat, towing behind his dinghy – which he has deemed the ‘Dinghy From Hell’. This is a pretty good description; he’s had steel bars fitted for the bow of it which are Kevlar reinforced. The rubber is Hypalon rated for Coast Guard inflatable boats that he had shipped from France to Quebec to Marathon, FL and then sent down to the Caribbean to be custom made by Caribe Inflatables. He has every electronic know to man in it – the thing is 4-wheel drive, a marine version. It was rated for a 25 HP outboard, so he put a 90 HP on it so he could push the ‘Manatee’ at 6 knots if the motor died. The thing is truly hardcore.

It took us a couple hours to get to his waypoint, and when we reached it, they were nowhere in sight. We hailed them over and over on VHF, and couldn’t hear anything. The seas were rough, but not overwhelmingly so. Even so, we were worried about them dragging into the rocks. We looked for an hour, and heard nothing from them. Finally, Ted and Dave got into the ‘Dinghy From Hell’ and went plowing through the waves, head on, catching air in the process. Dave basically held on for dear life and operated the radio while Ted guided the craft through the chop.  At some points the dinghy was almost underwater, Ted’s response was ‘This thing is better than a submarine!”

When they circled around one of the islands we were nestled in, they saw them anchored out. They towed them in to the mothership, which was over a mile away and helped them onboard. Frank, completely green around the gills, instantly tossed his cookies over the side and then went to sleep below. Recey explained to us, that the battery on their handheld VHF had died. They had been stuck for hours, anchored out in rough chop, 100 ft off an iron shoal. Nothing too bad, but definitely unpleasant to be in for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Berry Islands

Our last intention had been to push from Nassau to The Berry's then off to Bimini and finally making our way to the states.

We got a little held up in The Berry's. Dave and I ended up becoming buddy, buddy with the owner of the marina, The Berry Islands Club. It's an adorable, quaint little place. The owner, bought it just over a year ago and is in the process of fixing it up a bit.

Here's where the story gets interesting: I'm going to exclude names, because there's a threat issue for the owner. He's an environmental lawyer who is included in one of the lawsuits against BP from oil spill. Because of this fact, he's been threatened a few times. So, he travels everywhere with his bodyguard.

When we first arrived, we all whooped it up. Instantly felt like family. We became quick friends with his bodyguard. We spent our time here playing in the water and running around like madmen with him.

The owner and the bodyguard have asked us to stay and help out at the marina. Dave would primarily be working on fixing up the place, and I would be working in the restaurant and bar area. In exchange, we'd receive room, board and food.

We told them we'd think about it.

The next day, they both hopped onto a plane and left. On their way out, they told us to watch the place. So, we've stayed to keep an eye on the place.

Our first day was crazy. We busted our buns! We had no direction, no information - we just had to make things up as we went from what little information we knew. There are two locals who work here full time. They didn't seem to like the idea of us coming in. They weren't even told we'd be staying to help out, so they were left with us to deal with.

After a couple days of trying our best to make things work and to pacify the two employees, we felt unwelcomed and intrusive. We're not even sure when the owner is coming back.

We have our truck back in the states we need to retrieve, we're not really sure what our place is here - and we're not willing to hang around for who knows how long to find that out - especially when the two people we're working with here don't seem to want us here.

So, we're waiting for our weather window. We're still helping out in whatever way we can. We like the idea of staying to help, but it's all too ambiguous and vague. It's just too confusing for us!